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Progressive encephalomyelopathy and cerebellar degeneration in 10 captive-bred cheetahs
  1. A. C. Palmer, MA, PhD,ScD, FRCVS1,
  2. J. J. Callanan, MVB, PhD,MRCPath, MRCVS2,
  3. L. A. Guerin, MRCVS3,
  4. B. J. Sheahan, MA, MVB,MSc, PhD, FRCPath,MRCVS2 and
  5. R. J. M. Franklin, BSc,BVetMed, PhD, MRCVS1
  1. 1 Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OES
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland
  3. 3 Gilabbey Veterinary Clinic, Cork, Ireland N. Stronach, BA, PhD, Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, County Cork, Ireland


Progressive ataxia, with head tremor, developed in 10 captive-born cheetah cubs under six months of age. The condition was usually preceded by coryza and an ocular discharge. Initially the ataxia and weakness affected the hindquarters, then the forelegs, and head tremor developed later. Significant pathological changes were confined to the central nervous system. There was widespread Wallerian degeneration in the funiculi of the spinal cord (except those in the dorsal columns), in the medulla and in the cerebellum. In the cerebellum there was degeneration of Purkinje cells and of the molecular and granular cell layers. There was chromatolysis in the Purkinje cells, the ventral horn cells of the spinal cord and in the neurons of the lateral vestibular nucleus. The olivary nucleus was necrotic. There were foci of inflammatory cells in the molecular layer of the cerebellum and in the medulla. The cause of the disease remains unknown.

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